I love to be scared and suspended in a state of heebie-jeebies. I crave the dread, succumbing to the paranoia and to that always elusive (but much des I love to be scared and suspended in a state of heebie-jeebies. I crave the dread, succumbing to the paranoia and to that always elusive (but much desired) sensation of epic creep. I don't mind when authors reach for the gross out (that's all fine for a good bit of schlocky fun); but where horror's beating heart really lies -- where it lives and breathes in the darkened shadows -- is in the dread and creep. That's how it all began with Gothic fiction. Those are its roots baby, and on some primal level as voracious consumers of the tale, this is still what we crave when we ask somebody to "tell us a scary story".
Of course, horror by its very nature and definition is extremely fluid and subjective (I would argue the most subjective of all the genres). What scares and unsettles us is so specific to the individual. Horror can be, and often is, in the eye of the beholder. It's an emotion that happens in the nervous system, not the brain. Horror can be smart and demanding of its reader/viewer, but the desired experience is to feel during and think later.
I'm always on the hunt for the next thing that's going to scare the pants off me. Over the years, there have been long dry spells. I'm getting older, and more critical. I don't scare as easy as I used to and most of my horror consumption of late has been of the film kind, not the book kind. That doesn't mean I stop looking.
I'm always looking.
When a co-worker brought I Remember You to my attention, I was intrigued. It was in translation from Icelandic. I had never read anything by an Icelandic author before and this particular one was being touted as terrifying. So I took a chance, and I'm really glad I did. This is a ghost story, and like a lot of the best ghost stories, there is a mystery that demands to be solved.
I Remember You is a duel narrative that switches off every chapter. The first narrative is of three friends who travel to a remote abandoned village in Iceland. Their plan is to renovate a property there and make it a travel destination for those seeking natural beauty and escape. From the first moments of their arrival, the friends begin to notice strange occurrences. As the days pass, things get stranger and more frightening as the group realize they are trapped with no easy escape.
The second narrative follows a doctor whose son disappeared three years previously. His body was never found and the loss continues to torment him and his estranged wife. As the chapters flip back and forth (often ending on a cliffhanger), the tension and stakes ratchet up accordingly. The two dueling narratives eventually collide and combine in a most satisfying way. This isn't a fast-paced story. It takes its time. Each reveal meant to be savored.
I recommend reading this late at night, preferably with the wind howling high and loud outside your window and if the lights should flicker, well -- don't be alarmed. It's just the wind.
I enjoyed this book a lot. It's moody and atmospheric and creepy as all hell in parts. This would make a fantastic movie (I'm going to betray my reader heart here and say it would probably make a better movie than book). I love ghost stories on film and if you love any of the following movies, you will probably love this book.
I really, really wanted to love this collection. I was so stoked to get my hands on it (as excited as I get about short story anthologies anyways). ItI really, really wanted to love this collection. I was so stoked to get my hands on it (as excited as I get about short story anthologies anyways). It contains an original story by Stephen King for heaven's sake, not to mention other original contributions from some of the genre's heaviest hitters including: Ramsey Campbell, John Ajvide Lindqvist and Dennis Etchison.
I think what frustrated me the most about this collection is that the majority of the stories have great beginnings but fizzle out on underwhelming, meh endings. Regardless of how pregnant with potential the premise, none of the authors really nail it, hit it out of the park, stick the landing (pick your metaphor, I got plenty).
That's not to say I didn't enjoy myself, because I did. I just expected more. I wanted that punch to the solar plexus, that tingly feeling of dread or shivery sensation of creep. Instead, I was moderately entertained and mildly amused.
Not surprisingly, one of the strongest is Stephen King's "The Little Green God of Agony", which carries a Twilight Zone or Creepshow vibe. A master of suspense, King controls the mounting tension on this one near perfectly. Anyone who is aware of King's long road to recovery after his near fatal accident won't be surprised to see him turn his writer's eye to the subject of excruciating pain. A pain so intolerable, one can only imagine the body has been possessed by an evil entity that feeds off the agony. While the ending is not that surprising really, it sure is sweet getting there.
King may be my sentimental favorite of the collection, but Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist (author of Let the Right One In) offers the most original and beautifully executed story. "The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer" is a darkly imagined ghost story about grief that resonates with sadness and desperation. A mother dies suddenly, and in the vacuum of a father and son's loss a ghost finds its way in. Not just any ghost. A murderer of children. This one actually wormed its way in and unnerved me. The writing is very good. It's really hard to believe that the same country that exported ABBA, has given us Lindqvist. Both are fantastic, but one of these things is not like the other.
The story idea I was most excited about came from horror legend Ramsey Campbell called "Getting It Wrong". It's a deadly games premise whereby a radio quiz show called Inquisition requires its contestants to answer questions correctly ... or bad things happen. I love the set-up on this one. Imagine taking a show like "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and amping up the stakes so it's not money you're winning or losing, but the right to keep limbs intact, or eyeballs in your head. Now you're really in the hot seat. You have a life line, literally. So, idea? Perfect. Set-up? Pretty damn fine. Final denouement? Meh. This story could have been so much more, with just a little more meat on its bones.
Finally, Elizabeth Hand's novella "Near Zennor" just sucked me in and kept me turning the pages. It takes place on the English moors and has a very Gothic vibe. A man loses his wife suddenly and finds some old letters she wrote when she was just a girl to the author of a series of children's books. It becomes a mystery that he wants to investigate and he travels to the place where she spent one summer in 1971. This is an odd story that I couldn't quite make up my mind about as I was reading it, but still, it's very strong and I couldn't put it down even when there didn't seem to be anything really happening.
Overall, a fair collection with a couple of pieces worth the price of admission.
This was an okay enjoyable read with plenty of atmosphere and gothic elements to recommend it, but for me, it was almost “textbook” gothic… what do yoThis was an okay enjoyable read with plenty of atmosphere and gothic elements to recommend it, but for me, it was almost “textbook” gothic… what do you call it – a pastiche? Right down to calling the sprawling Victorian mansion Hill House. There are some genuine eerie moments and I don’t regret spending an afternoon curled up with this one, but unfortunately it’s one of those books that you know you’re going to forget in a day.
As my friends know I don’t read many mysteries, but when I do they generally fall into the “family secrets” sort where the protagonist goes poking around to uncover some dark and demented family past. The reveal and wrapping up of the mystery here can be seen coming a mile away, even if you’re not paying the least bit of attention, so that was disappointing too. If I’m going to invest the time to unravel a mystery, it better keep me guessing right up to the end. I want to be surprised and shaken. Overall this was a well-constructed novel, ably paced and written, but turned out to be more of a reasonable facsimile of a modern gothic tale, rather than the genuine article. ...more
**spoiler alert** In the Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger does something unique and wonderful to the concept of time travel and weaves a story**spoiler alert** In the Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger does something unique and wonderful to the concept of time travel and weaves a story so transfixing I will remain haunted by it for the rest of my reading life. She attempts to achieve a similar feat with Her Fearful Symmetry, only this time Niffenegger tackles ghosts – and in its way this novel is a ghost story unlike any ghost story I have read.
Elsepth’s afterlife experience essentially “haunting” her flat in London and those she has left behind is poignant and rich in detail. Her evolution from a vague mist into a defined presence able to make small changes in the physical world that surrounds her is engaging and well told. However, and this is a big however, the rest of the novel falls apart around this promising nugget.
I could not identify with any of the eccentric and bereft characters that populate this book. The estrangement between Edie and Elspeth seems contrived and I just did not buy “the big reveal” at the end regarding their history, finding it immensely disappointing and wholly unsatisfying. Ditto the other “big shock” regarding Valentina’s ultimate fate, which I found neither tragic nor poetic. Truth be told it pissed me off and felt like a cheat. Robert’s and Elspeth’s guilt-ridden flight out of London and away from their (un)-intended crime made me mad too, especially Robert’s desertion of the reincarnated Elspeth and his unborn child. Was that really necessary and what does it add to the story’s final resolution? Are we to believe he blamed Elspeth for Valentina’s death and perhaps believed Elspeth’s habitation of Valentina’s body was premeditated?
One final note: the twin relationship between Julia and Valentina screamed unhealthy and drove me nuts because I couldn’t think of two rational women behaving in this fucked up way, identical twins or not. There had been no separation, no maturation, to the point where each was stunted emotionally and mentally. You would think that would somehow make them interesting, but it really doesn’t. In the end I found them pathetic rather than sympathetic.
This story really did have the makings of a fabulous Gothic tale – weird sisters, love triangles, a ghost, and the ghostly ability to rip out the soul from a living body. It just didn’t quite make it. ...more
Re-reading this for the third time as I get ready to tackle the final two volumes in the series: Clockworks and Alpha & Omega. I love everything Re-reading this for the third time as I get ready to tackle the final two volumes in the series: Clockworks and Alpha & Omega. I love everything about the world and its rules Joe Hill has conjured here, and the characters he has lovingly crafted to live in its pages. Locke & Key has become one of my favorite series ever and I can't wait to see how it's going to end.
2012 Review: This is my second go around with Joe Hill's phenomenal foray into graphic novel territory (to prepare for Volumes 3 and 4). Welcome to Lovecraft is a stunning debut, and I enjoyed it even more this time, so much so that I've bumped it from four to five stars. Yes, it really is that good.
The premise is a fantastic one and you will be totally swept up in the awesome imagination it shows and the mystery and adventure it promises. The character development in just a few short pages is outstanding -- Hill deftly explores the wonderment of childhood, the searing pain of grief and the love of family.
Little Bode Locke is as sweet and precocious as they come. His boyish, unchecked curiosity is what reignites the mystery of Key House, the sprawling family mansion where the Locke family relocates after the brutal slaying of its patriarch. Left to grieve are big brother Ty, middle sister Kinsey, their mom, and of course Bode.
Each member of the family struggles to come to terms with the gargantuan loss -- Mom is drinking too much, Ty is crushed with guilt and contemplating suicide, Kinsey is withdrawn and tormented by the bloody memories of that fateful day. With his family so distracted, Bode is left to roam the grounds of Key House, and to become entangled in a very old mystery, like the fly unwittingly ensnared by the spider's web.
Key House is what it promises -- a house with many doors and with many keys to unlock them. I won't tell you what's behind the doors because that would ruin the surprise. I will say that it is so goddamn fantastic you are not going to be able to put this story down until you have finished it. Then you are going to want to run out and immediately get your hands on the rest of the series ... at least what Hill has written so far (and thank goodness he isn't done yet!)
This is storytelling at its finest. Can I use the word superlative? Yes? Alright, superlative.
Original review December 2008 It's becoming clear to me that Joe Hill's real strength as a writer lies in the short story (and now graphic novel) format. There is obviously something about the concise, contained prose on a smaller canvas (rather than the sprawling novel) that brings out the best in his storytelling talents. I was not a fan of Hill's debut novel Heart-Shaped Box; however, his short story collection 20th Century Ghosts has amazing depth and texture, and he scores big again with Locke and Key, the first in a graphic novel series that shows real imagination. Calling the town Lovecraft is a nice touch. Let's not ignore the fantastic artistic contribution made by Gabriel Rodriquez. Their collaboration guarantees a memorable reading experience. ...more
This is a weird one. It had enough in it to keep me reading, but I think I only stuck with it because it was on the short side. Lots of people have coThis is a weird one. It had enough in it to keep me reading, but I think I only stuck with it because it was on the short side. Lots of people have commended McGrath for his writing style, but I found it a bit over done and taxing. I appreciate what he is trying to accomplish here, but it just didn't work for me. No one is sympathetic, let alone the narrator, and the ending bit the big one. Witty? Insightful? Clever? No. No. No. Great idea, poorly executed. ...more